The government have committed to changing the policy around men who have sex with men donating blood by early 2023 after a call for change by a local actor.

Their announcement comes after ‘Heartstopper’ actor Joe Locke described the policy, which currently bans msm from ever donating blood, as ‘archaic’ after years of attempts by politicians to get it changed.

His message was played on the main stage at the island’s pride festival last weekend before being posted online and gaining the attention of national publications including Gay Times and Metro.

Speaking to the BBC, Health Minister Lawrie Hooper MHK said: ‘Ultimately the aim is absolutely to move to that position of equality where the ability of give blood is based on whether or not the blood is safe to be used.’

A statement from the government said: ‘In future donors would not be asked about their sexuality and men who have sex with men would no longer be automatically prevented from giving blood.

‘Instead a person’s eligibility to donate would be based solely on an assessment of their individual experiences, as part of their pre-donation health check.’

The policy is expected to be updated in the first quarter of 2023 though the change could happen sooner if possible according to Mr Hooper.

This would likely see the island adopt a similar policy to the UK which introduced a more gender neutral 3 month deferral for anyone who has had anal sex with new or multiple partners in the last three months in 2021, allowing men in same-sex monogamous relationships to donate blood for the first time.

One reason given in 2019 for the lag in a policy change by then health minister, David Ashford MHK, was the introduction of NAAT, or nucleic acid amplification testing, which is a method of screening blood for HIV.

Manx Care and the blood donor team have confirmed that this form of testing is now fully implemented on donor units in the Isle of Man.

An original analysis of the island’s blood screening capabilities in 2016 lead to a decision not to change donor criteria at the time.

A move away from specifying rules for msm would bring the island’s policy to the same level as countries such as France, Israel and even Russia.